Recipe: Thai-Style Steak with Thai Fried Quinoa

During the pasta and grains unit in my Foods 1 class last fall, we discussed a popular alternative to rice and couscous called quinoa. Nutty, grain-like, and celebrated as a healthier alternative to other grain side dishes, quinoa has recently become pretty popular in the food world and I’ve been dying to try it out. I searched high and low for the perfect recipe and found this fantastic one from Iowa Girl Eats. I picked up strip steaks and created a Thai-inspired marinade, and that this unique, grain-like side dish. Eating the quinoa was a lot like eating fried rice—it’s nutty, chewy-crunchy, and fluffy—and it turned out just as well as I’d hoped it would.

Serves: 4
Prep. time: 15 minutes (marinate the steaks for at least 2 hours, or up to 24 hours)
Cooking time: 15-20 minutes for the quinoa, 5-10 minutes for the complete quinoa mixture, 5-10 minutes for the steak. Approx. 30-40 minutes total.
Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients
For the marinade

  • 4 tbsp. oyster sauce
  • 1/2-1 tsp. chili garlic sauce (add more if you want it spicy)
  • 1 tsp. lime juice
  • 1 tsp. creamy peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp. cilantro, chopped
  • 4 strip steaks
For the quinoa
  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained (the brand I used was pre-rinsed)
  • 1 cup light/lite coconut milk
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/4 tsp. lime zest
  • Peanut oil (enough to lightly coat the bottom of a large pan)
  • 1 bunch green onions, chopped
  • 1 tbsp ginger, minced or grated/”zested”
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1, 8 oz. can pineapple tidbits, drained
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 2 tbsp. sweetened, shredded coconut, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup peanuts, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp. soy sauce
  • Juice of 1 lime (approx. 1-2 tbsp.)
  • 2 tbsp. soy sauce
Directions
Combine all of the ingredients for the steak marinade, then pour the mixture into a gallon size Ziploc bag, add the steaks, and mush the marinade around to coat the steaks. Put the steaks in the fridge to marinate. The longer you let the steaks marinate, the better the flavor (I put my steaks in the marinade at 11:00am and we grilled them up around 7:45pm). 
In a medium pot (approx. 2 quarts), add the quinoa, lime zest, coconut milk, and chicken stock. Bring the mixture to a boil (without a lid), then reduce the heat to medium-low and cover with a lid. Cook for 15-20 minutes, or until the quinoa is tender (a little crispiness is okay) and has soaked up all of the fluid. Once the quinoa is cooked, turn off the heat and let it sit, covered, while you work on everything else. Preheat the grill to medium-high heat, then put the steaks on and cook until they reach your desired doneness (about 5-10 minutes for medium). In the meantime, heat the peanut oil over medium high heat in a large, deep skillet or wok. Add the green onion, ginger, and garlic and cook for about a minute, until fragrant, making sure to stir frequently to prevent the garlic from burning. Add the peas and pineapple and cook for another minute, stirring occasionally. Push the mixture out to the edges of the skillet, scramble the eggs in a small bowl, and add the eggs to the middle of the skillet. Whisk them around as they cook, and once cooked through, break up the eggs and mix them into the rest of the ingredients. Add the chopped peanuts, coconut, and cilantro and stir to combine. Pour in the cooked quinoa, soy sauce, and lime juice and stir to combine. Serve the finished quinoa alongside the steaks. Add additional cilantro and peanuts as desired.

This dish is such a flavor explosion! The marinade for the steak is meaty, savory, salty, and slightly spicy. Oyster sauce is amazing and it has this savory quality that makes it perfect for many Asian dishes, particularly when used with beef. The quinoa mixture, with its sweet pineapple and coconut, salty peanuts, fresh cilantro, and sweet-spicy ginger is delicious. It’s like eating Thai fried rice, but it’s fluffier, lighter, and nuttier. If you’re looking for something out of the ordinary for dinner (well, it was out of the ordinary for an Italian food-loving girl like me), try this out! The unique flavor combinations and the texture and taste of the quinoa make this a winning dish.
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